With the end of Industrial Revolution the scientific temperament but was still in its entire thrill among the people. This temperament gave rose to several inventions and new world innovations. Some leading to prosperity but some really horrifying. One of those inventions was the Parkesine created by Alexander Parkes around mid nineteenth century. Something which Parkes celebrated as a first example of an alternative material, unknown of the fact that a passage was opened leading to hell for mankind.
Hence began the chain reaction of the destruction of humanity. On verging of the twentieth century polyvinyl chloride was invented and then after about three decades with the advent of twentieth century Leo Beakeland invented Bakelite, the first fully synthetic mass produced plastic. Humanity was standing on the edge of the hell ignorant of the cries and sufferings of the future.
Plastic, synonym of devil, is the one responsible for changing our world. All the comforts that it bestows, charges your precious health and priceless “chunks” of nature’s beauty. Now we cannot revert the hands of clock but we can judiciously and wisely use plastic to minimize its devastating effect and turn this hazardous waste into wealth.
Broadly speaking, the wastes can be classified into two kinds, the dry waste and the wet waste. The dry wastes include plastics, glass, iron pieces and others. The wet wastes include the leftovers, peels of vegetables and fruits, sludge and others.
A systematic and scientific management and disposal of these wastes is profitable. In scientific terms, we have Municipal Solid Wastes, commonly known as garbage or trash this is a waste from our everyday items that is discarded by us. Its composition greatly varies over place and time. It predominantly includes food waste, household waste, market waste, packaging materials and products which are no longer useful. Its common sources are residential, commercial, institutional and industrial areas. It is important to note that these wastes do not include industrial waste, agricultural waste, medical waste, radioactive waste or sewage sludge.
Many laws have had evolved for proper and scientific waste management since 1974 to recent to 2016. Some of them include, The Water (Prevention and Control) Act in 1974 whose area of application is industries and landfills, National Green Tribunal Act in 2010 applicable to industries and municipalities, Construction and Demolition Waste Management Rules in 2016 whose area of application is upon all kinds of construction and demolition wastes and there are many more laws as well.
Let us take a peek into some best solid waste management practices. Firstly it is the practice of “Reduce” as it states, “consume less is equal to waste less”. In order to follow this practice one has to decline use of plastics and disposals by returning the packaging or dead products, decline the use of plastic bags and manufacturers should also decline the use of packaging and use alternative biodegradable packaging materials.
Secondly one has to “reuse” the products. One may find a safe usage of leftovers, one must reuse the disposables safely at personal level and also reuse the packaging and wrappings. One can also follow the practice of “Recycle”. This means return of waste materials back into consumption cycle and for resource recovery. It is important to note that segregation is the key for recycling and for realizing “Waste to Wealth”.
Among many government initiatives to convert waste to wealth a handful include, waste to compost, a very significant initiative regarding composting. It enforces the market development assistance policy under Swachh Bharat Mission. Another initiative includes waste to energy under which government enforces guidelines by task force constituted by Planning Commission on Waste to Energy. There is also an initiative for construction and demolition wastes which involves minimizing the quantity of inert reaching to landfill and to promote reuse and recycle of these wastes. The Bureau of Indian Standards has amended the specification for coarse and fine aggregate for concrete.
The government has made an elaborate plan for plastic waste management. This plan includes the plastic waste for road construction. Government order in 2015 has made it mandatory for all road developers in the country to use same amount of waste plastic along with bituminous mixes for road construction. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, had directed to all states to use plastic waste and bitumen roads in at least 10 kilometer of stretch as Pilot Project. In order to study performance of these roads Central Road Research Institute, Indian Institutes of Technology, Nationa Institutes of Techonolgy and other government technological institutes were engaged to confirm efficiency of system before making it mandatory for the contractors.
The advantage of plastic and bitumen roads over normal ones are that these roads are sturdier, have no stripping or potholes, decreased consumption of bitumen, have no effect of ultraviolet rays and others. Using plastic shreds in roads saves about one tonne of bitumen per kilometer. The process of building roads using recycled plastic was conceptualized by Padma Sri Rajagopalan Vasudevan, professor of Madurai’s Thiagrajar College of Engineering. He is also known as “Plastic Man of India”.
Let us take a look at some case studies. Vengurla is a small town at half an hour drive from “beach paradise” Goa. This town is completely waste free town of India. Vengurla greeted about 7000 visitors in 2017. In year 2017 it recycled 7 tonnes of waste and the money earned was used in Municipal activities.
In 2015, Ramdas Kokare, chief officer of Vengurla municipality initiated waste segregation at source. He spread social awareness educating waste separation and also engaged 3000 household in waste segregation. The wet waste collected is used to produce biogas generating 30 units of electricity per tonne. United Nations Development Programme provides plastic shredding machine working on biogas. For every kilometer of road it requires one tonne of plastic which comes from one million plastic bags and helps in saving 10,000 rupees per stretch. Heavy plastic is sold to cement factories. Vengurla municipality earns about 1,50,000 rupees per month from waste management. The money is used to improve solid waste management system in the village.
Indore is another remarkable example. Indore has topped the “Swachh Sarvekshan”, an annual city cleanliness survey, in years 2019 and 2020. Indore generates 1157 metric tonne waste per day which includes 58.25 percent (650 metric tonne) wet waste and 41.75 per cent (465 metric tonne) dry waste. The wet waste is treated on site after collecting while the dry waste is sent to Materials Recovery Facility Centres for further processing. Hazardous biomedical wastes sent in Biomedical vans to Biomedical Waste Treatment Facility. Indore earns about 4 crores per annum by putting garbage to good use.
There are many private companies as well indulged in conversion of waste to wealth. Coca Cola has planned to use 50 per cent recycled plastic made beverage bottles by 2030. Kraft Heinz manufactures ketchup bottle made up of 100 per cent recycled plastic. By 2025, waste management market in India is going to be of about 15 billion dollars worth with a growth rate of 7 per cent per year.
Shakti Plastics are the pioneers in the field of plastic waste management since 1969. It produces recycled plastic granules which have identical chemical properties with cheaper rates. Arora Fibres recycles discarded plastics to polyester used as packaging material since 1994.
According to Rupinder Singh Arora, chairman of Arora Fibres, by recycling 10 billion polyethylene terephthalate bottles one can save one million square yards of landfill space and can eliminate 0.25 million tonnnes of carbon dioxide emission in atmosphere. Arora Fibres trapped primary market of 9.6 crore rupees in 1994 and logged 34 crore rupees revenue in financial year ended in March 2013.
Parley and Adidas are also engaged in making “Ocean Plastic” apparels. In 2015 Adidas partnered with Parley and in 2019 Adidas made about 11 million shoe pairs with recycled plastic from sea beaches and marine trash. Each item in Parley collection is made up of at least 75 per cent intercepted marine trash. Adidas goal is to replace all virgin polyester by 2024.
Currently more than 40 per cent of Adidas apparel uses recycled polyester. Cloths made with ocean plastic has been used in college football, baseball, hockey, the Australian Open and many more. Adidas is also developing 100 per cent recyclable shoe called the Future Craft Loop. This shoe can be broken down to remake a brand new pair of shoes. Adidas sold 5 million pairs of ocean plastic shoes and is set to make more a billion dollar in revenue by trying to solve one of the biggest environmental problems.
We can take cognizance of the fact that that both government and the corporate world have set out to resolve the biggest threat to environment. However, at last it is our responsibility as citizens of world to take a firm stand and join our hands to eliminate this devil named plastic and refurbish our world into a prosperous planet.